I had the opportunity to write about one of my favorite places in the world over at Book Riot.
If you’re a book lover traveling through or living in Los Angeles, I highly recommend checking out The Huntington Library.
Hey look what I got!
I’m mostly excited because as a condition of receiving these cookie cutters a coworker never got around to using, I have to bring in a batch of cookies. So I guess I’m just excited about eating cookies…
As if life couldn’t get any better, I got to see Judy Blume in conversation and she signed my copy of, In the Unlikely Event, her new book (and possibly her last). It was the second time I’d heard her speak; it’s always a pleasure. You’ll be hearing more about the writing aspect of that convo here soon, and about my related, bookish thoughts on Book Riot, where I’m now a contributor!
Well well well. We meet again.
Non-Fic. I thought I would check in with some updates, starting with the news that I’m writing non-fiction again. Not exclusively, mind you. But I have missed that scene and I’m the type of person who levels up better while under pressure. That’s not an invitation, oh mystical Fates, but…yeah. As luck would have it, I was offered a great opportunity to do more food writing, so here you are, my first contribution to Men’s Journal:
Fic. And then there’s THE BOOK. I’m getting things done. Trust. The process of flinging it out into the world at this stage is boring so I’ll spare you. Okay, it’s not boring…I’m just oddly hesitant to blab about it. I might be living in a perpetual state of breath-holding. It’s hard to speak under these conditions.
I’m also writing short stories again, having been stuck under an editing rock for so long. I don’t sleep.
Reading. At the moment I’m reading Foundation by Asimov. Hitting up them classics. And enjoying it so far. Next I’m determined to get to Pratchett’s Hogfather at last. I’m actually audiobooking Foundation and physically reading Birds of America by Lorrie Moore. I fear genre insulation.
Stuff. In my spare time, I doodle and take long walks on the beach while trying to avoid the sea monsters because I only take long walks on the beach in my frightfully vivid dreams.
I finished my revisions (aka rewrite). What does one do with one’s self? Doodle?!
Well today I attend my first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference.
Will I fit in? Who will I sit with at lunch?
As a writer or creative, you know what it means to be precious. You know preciousness is a detrimental and alluring trap we’ve all fallen into from time to time. But it wasn’t until recently that I looked at preciousness using a wide angle and considered what it means to be precious with your personality. This is in regards to being an individual generally as well as a creative. This is in regards to having a voice.
A cord of what I’ll shruggingly generalize as strangeness exists in many of our icons in writing and art. Gorey was a crazy cat lady with a fondness for fur coats whose trust benefited animal for god’s sake. Some simply vocalize opinions that rankle and estrange readers, right Bret Easton Ellis?
In this, our age of hacked nudity and eternally archived regrets, the thought of vocalizing or expressing oneself in a way that could one day be uncovered and used against us is galling at best. We wouldn’t want to alert the fanboysandgirls to light their torches and gather their pitchforks. We wouldn’t want to expose ourselves as deviants. We wouldn’t want to write something that might make that one person in SFO feel marginalized. But will we dilute our work to avoid the slings and arrows?
I look at the powder kegs of the creative world and wonder if there’s something to learn from them. They almost can’t help but express themselves. Their voices are so loud they can’t not be heard.
It might not even be a fear of expression that muffles some. I recently received a critique that completely turned around the way I think about editing and voice. Something clicked. I tend to over-analyze and edit to perfect, forgetting to enrich. It’s the academic in me–the technical essayist. It’s a problem. While NaNoWriMo helped me overcome some of that, it’s been writing my serialized, on the spot work Ghost and the Daemon that’s helped the most. It made me look at the way I write Ghost and compare it to the way I’ve been editing my longtime WIP and love of my life, Aurelia and the House of Dire.
I became aware of the danger of caring too much. I realized that you can’t be experimental or playful or innovative when your perspective is locked into making something perfect. I’ve understood avoiding preciousness for some time, but I don’t think I comprehended that it meant more than removing a sentence or even a chapter you had some freak obsession with because it sounded clever but didn’t add anything. It meant letting the IRL opinionated weirdo in me push aside the infallible writer I imagined I should be, allowing it to get in there and do some damage. I am who I am. I’m not what college prescribed and I’m not the writer my younger self wanted me to be. And thank the lawd for that.
I’ve been through a lot in my life and it’s time I accepted myself for who I am as a writer and a person (more and more they’re one and the same), now and in the future. It’s time I stopped giving such an almighty fuck about what everyone else thinks. Because there are a lot of boring sheeple in the world, and a lot of people who will tell you who you should be, how you should write, what you should read, and how you should live your own life. And there are all sorts of notions we can get up in our heads about by comparing ourselves to others. But as soon as we build those boxes, we damn ourselves to create within them and a box is no place for the imagination to thrive. It’s a place where you can be certain your voice won’t be heard thanks to all the others bouncing off the walls, drowning it out.
I almost wish I hadn’t wanted to be a writer for such a long time, developing all of these ideas about what it meant, piling on the expectations and building boundaries. But the good thing about discovery is that it can compel you to change for the better. You just have to find the nerve to break up with who you used to be, embrace who you are, and let the world know.
When I was a child even smaller than I am today, I’d often look up from my book and imagine what it might be like to be a writer. I pictured fingers raking through care-swept hair, piles of books, littered quills and crumpled paper, and the oldest writing desk buried beneath inked sheets and crawling with belligerent ravens. You know, high rafters, dust, and the empty, black space beyond.
I long ago left childhood behind and turned 32 this month. I’ve published a graphic novel and I’m on the cusp of querying my first full-length novel. It turns out that other than the ravens and the rafters, my naive vision of writing was mostly correct. I sit chained to my desk, which is piled high with all of the things I don’t have time to read or file, pulling out my hair, looking for red pens among the stupid decorative quills, most often isolated in my apartment. Replace the ravens with a cat I guess.
While I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, it’s not enough. I started this blog a few days before my 29th birthday when I realized I didn’t have all the time in the world. Like Captain Hook, I hear the clock ticking every second away and, grim as it may sound, birthdays have turned into reminders that I’m not working fast or hard enough. And when you spend almost all of your free time working, apologizing to friends, and basically living for this thing that sucks up your life, goals and results become that much more urgent.
Maybe I’d never get anything done if I wasn’t so frantic. I don’t know what will be the byproduct of aggressive ambition and the inability to meet my own expectations. All I know is that I spent my birthday in my apartment, editing my manuscript, and that it was the only thing I wanted to do.
I’ve been a delinquent blogger, vlogger, writer…everything. I know this. Here’s the deal. I go through these periods where all of my best laid plans bottleneck, congeal, and morph into a hideous, screaming hydra. I’m currently chopping at this hydra with a dull machete, trying to nap and be a human being in between swings.
My problem is that I have more plans than time. As my bestie, Alyssa, puts it, I’m burning the candle at both ends and in the middle.
The bad news is I’m bone-weary and overwhelmed all the time; the good news is that things got done. For instance, illustrator Robert Burrows and I have launched the Kickstarter for the first volume of our graphic novel, Beatrice is Dead!
I’ll just leave the video and Kickstarter link here…you know, in case you want to do something with them.
The video is PG, but please do note that Beatrice is Dead was written for an adult audience.
I should probably put more fanfare behind this, but I’ve decided that this blog is the one place where I don’t have to be a marketer. But I am immensely proud of this graphic novel and I do hope you’ll back us if the story interests you.
Click the header directly below for the Kickstarter page.